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Papua New Guinea Ecological Information

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NEW GUINEA is the world's second-largest island, exceeded in size only by Greenland, and it is also the world's highest tropical island, with 70% of the land still cloaked in dense tropical forests.

The central spine of the island is a complex system of mountain ranges and upland valleys that stretch for nearly 2000 km. The highest peaks rise to almost 5000 metres. This huge equatorial island is a wondrous place, providing a rich variety of habitats for its wildlife: from the reef and mangrove swamps at sea level, through swamp forests and lowland rainforests on the coastal plains and foothills, to mid-mountain beech and pine forests, and, at the highest altitudes, stunted moss forests and alpine grasslands. The result is an island teeming with life, with a greater diversity of animals and plants than almost anywhere else. Many are strange; most are unique.

Papua New Guinea's coral reefs not only support a huge variety of fish life, but the reef structures themselves are also incredibly varied. Within a small area, either from land or boat, one can explore (by diving or snorkeling) the sunlit world of a shallow patch of reef or follow a towering wall of coral into the depths, swim in huge caves, through narrow clefts, around palm-fringed islands, or across calm lagoons - all in a single day! In the Madang Lagoon, one can find over six hundred species of nudibranchs.

For almost every kind of soft coral, sponge and weed there seems to be a nudibranch (or sea-slug) to match. The Madang Lagoon also has a phenomenal variety of anemones with its partners, the delightful clown fish. The nutrient-rich waters teem with reef and pelagic fish.

The rolling green canopy of tropical rainforest boasts an astounding 1200 species of trees in the lowlands alone, 20,000 species of flowering plants which include rhododendrons and exquisite orchids, beetles of all shapes and sizes with many species being the most beautiful of iridescent colours, and over 6000 species moths and butterflies including the Alexandra Bird-wing butterfly and the Hercules moth- both the world's largest.

Papua New Guinea's fauna is predominantly marsupials, and along with Australia, are the only two countries which have representatives of all three kinds of mammals - the primitive egg-laying monotremes, the marsupials, and the placental mammals. Primates and carnivores failed to reach New Guinea, and instead evolved its own unique tree-dwelling marsupial mammals - striped and feather-tailed possums, ringtails, cuscuses and tree kangaroos.

Birds are undoubtedly the most outstanding group of animals, not only because of their beauty but also because of their great diversity and abundance. There are almost as many species of birds in Papua New Guinea as there are in Mexico, the U.S.A. and Canada combined. Yet Papua New Guinea is only about the size of California. Most famous are the magnificently plumaged and coloured birds of paradise which number 38 species, 36 of which are endemic, the other two being shared with tropical Australia. These birds have highly specialized forms of courtship behaviour and plumage display and the variety in plumage is certainly unique in avifauna.

There are many more remarkable and beautiful birds which rival the magnificence of the birds of paradise such as the bower birds, emperor wrens, a variety of pigeons including the Victoria crowned pigeon, kingfishers, lorikeets, parrots and cockatoos, and larger birds such as the hornbill, birds of prey, and the large flightless cassowary.

Over the centuries this mountainous green island developed a population equally as colourful and diverse as its wildlife. Papua New Guinea has over 700 languages. The "Highlanders" were probably the first agriculturalists in the world and developed a complex and colourful culture using the plants, flowers and bird plumage from the rainforest to enhance their images during the elaborate ceremonies and sing sings performed by clan groups to celebrate war, death, fertility, etc.

The people in the lowland regions were food gathers and developed complex rituals and beliefs in ancestral spirits and expressed these beliefs in elaborate wood carvings.

Papua New Guinea contains a fabulous wealth of resources - oil, natural gas, gold, copper, timber, some already tapped, many more yet to be exploited. It is a prosperous country where begging and starvation do not exist.

Papua New Guinea is also one of only a handful of places on the planet where there is still an opportunity to conserve large areas of wilderness, especially large areas of primary tropical rainforest. The next few decades will reveal whether this exciting opportunity is seized.

Ambua Lodge near Tari in the Southern Highlands, Karawari Lodge and the expeditionary vessel Sepik Spirit on the Sepik River and its tributaries, have all been carefully positioned to allow the inquisitive or specialized traveller the benefit of the best locations to see and experience all the incredibly diverse natural and cultural wonders this country has to offer, in the comfort and security of four of the best facilities in Papua New Guinea.


Guests at Ambua Lodge located in the highlands have the option of taking any of the following guided tours and excursions;

  • Village and cultural study tours
  • Nature walks
  • Bird watching
  • Orchids and Rhododendrons
  • Adventure treks and village stays


From Karawari Lodge, located in the Sepik area, guests can choose from the following;

  • Day trekking and adventure programs
  • Village stays and travelling in a motorized dugout canoe
  • Culture and village study tours
  • Bird watching
  • Orchid tours


This is a floating Lodge and operates in the middle Sepik River region between Timbunke/Karawari/Black-water Lakes areas.

Off the vessel guests can participate in:

  • Village Study and Culture
  • Art collection
  • Bird watching
  • Canoeing


Clients staying in Mount Hagen at the Rondon Ridge Lodge can choose from the following tours:

  • Bird watching
  • Orchid tour
  • Touring Mount Hagen
  • Visit the Melpa people


    Goway's DOWNUNDER wizards offer many ways to explore, experience and enjoy amazing Papua New Guinea. There are different lodges for different regions, a stay in a Sepik riverboat as well as a luxury small vessel cruising in the region. We can also arrange adventure treks and diving experiences. Let us custom-design what will be your most amazing globetrotting journey.


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